Title: The Best of Intentions

Summary: Kenshin is called away from the Kamiya dojo on another errand for the government and suggests Kaoru stay with Misao. As a favor Kaoru tries to find out about Aoshi's feelings for her friend, not knowing that SHE was the one that melted his heart.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kenshin. It's the work of Nobuhiro Watsuki. If I owned it Kenshin wouldn't have abandoned Kaoru and their son. Which is why I write so much alternate pairings in fiction!

Kaoru listened with a heavy heart as the government official laid out the details for Kenshin. They had been having a pleasant afternoon together sitting alone on the porch, just the two of them. Yahiko had left for the summer to spend the next three months with his friend Yutaro in Germany.

Sanosuke was off somewhere flirting with Megumi but had returned to the dojo after helping guide the government official to Kenshin. Now Kaoru found herself sitting between Kenshin and Sanosuke as the man laid out the details. Kenshin was needed in China for a very covert assignment that threatened the life of a very important politician.

"I understand, that I do," Kenshin replied quietly, his red bangs shadowed his amethyst eyes that grew dark with concern. He couldn't not take this assignment because innocent people would suffer. However, he had promised himself that with Yahiko out of the dojo that he would try and reveal his feelings for Kaoru. She meant so much to him, but he knew that she couldn't be expected to wait forever. He wasn't as blind as he acted and knew that young men were talking in town about pursuing her since her house guest seemed nothing more than a wash-person. This summer was supposed to be dedicated to furthering his relationship with her and putting those would-be suitors at bay.

"Kenshin," Kaoru whispered under her breath, knowing that her chance to tell Kenshin how she felt was slipping through her fingers. Another missed opportunity thanks to his conscious that would never be appeased.

Kenshin looked to his left at Kaoru, her emotions clearly written on her features. What he saw broke his heart, but he had an obligation to atone for his past sins. Kaoru would understand; she always did. "Kaoru-dono, may I speak with you privately?"

Surprised, Kaoru looked up, sapphire eyes already shining with unshed tears that she valiantly tried to suppress. Kenshin stood and offered his hand to her. She accepted his aid with a blush staining her cheeks. Kenshin kept his hold on her hand as he bowed his head slightly at the government official. "I just need a moment before I give you my answer."

The older man smiled slightly and nodded in understanding, trying to ignore the penetrating gaze of Sanosuke Sagara.

Kenshin lead Kaoru down the hallway towards the kitchen, not releasing her hand as he pulled her after him. Kaoru's gaze fell upon their hands; her heart was pounding wildly at his familiarity with her.

After shutting the door Kenshin released her hand and stood before her, a worried expression upon his face. The silence between them was thick and uneasy as their eyes locked, searching one another.

"I'm sorry Kaoru-dono, that I am," Kenshin began. Kaoru bit her lip, knowing what was to come next. He was going to leave her again. "You know that I must do this," Kenshin continued.

"Why?" Kaoru demanded, fisting her hands at her sides. Her blue eyes lit with a fierce fire while the tears slipping from them betrayed the pain she felt at his inevitable departure. "You promised that you wouldn't leave," she trailed off, words failing her.

Kenshin sighed heavily, feeling his heart fall to his toes at the distress he was causing the person he loved most. He reached up a hand to brush away the tears, his calloused fingers felt too dirty and flawed to be touching the creamy perfection of her delicate face. "Kaoru…..dono," he began with his voiced laced with sadness as he forced the dono to her name. "This unworthy one must do this. Do not cry for me, I'm not worth it."

Kaoru shook her head at his words, causing his fingers to fall from her cheeks but he rested them lightly at the base of her throat, not ready to severe the touch. "Why do you say that? Kenshin why do you always think so little of yourself? Why can't you just let someone else take care of this? Can't you think of yourself just once?" She pleaded with him desperately. 'Can't you think of me for once?' she silently asked.

Kenshin's hand lifted from her throat and reached into her obsidian tresses and pulled the dark blue ribbon from her hair, causing the locks to fall loosely down her back. He ran his fingers through her hair a few times before looking back into her eyes. "Kaoru, I have to do this."

Her head bowed, "I know," she whispered broken heartedly. Kenshin took his hand from her hair with her favorite ribbon in his fist before wrapping the band around his hand tightly and offering her his rurouni smile.

"Kaoru-dono, you should not concern yourself with this one; that you shouldn't. I'll return to you at the end of the season, I promise." Kenshin told her in a cheerful voice, masking his own bitter feelings at losing another opportunity with the beautiful sword master. "I have to return your ribbon."

'Why couldn't he come back for me? Why couldn't he say he wanted to come back to me?' "I," Kaoru closed her eyes and took a deep breath, "I don't mean to be selfish Kenshin, but what am I supposed to do? Yahiko is gone for the season and Sanosuke is going with you." Possibly she could stay with Megumi, but she'd never felt so alone and abandoned. Kenshin and Yahiko had become her family. Without either one she felt orphaned all over again.

"Kaoru-dono, I think maybe you should take Misao up on her offer." Kenshin suggested. The last time they had seen the female ninja she had tried very hard to persuade Kaoru to agree to spend some time with her in Kyoto. This would be the perfect opportunity. Things were very quiet at the Aoiya, especially with Aoshi always meditating, trying to find his own inner peace.

It would be a safe and easy going environment for his Kaoru. He would love for her to come with him, but he couldn't possibly put her life in that sort of danger.

"I guess I could do that," Kaoru replied. Then, like night and day, her face brightened as she hid behind her own cheerful smile, that Kenshin knew very well was a façade, much like his own. "I'm positive that Misao and I will have a wonderful time together."

"I will make sure that we go to Kyoto first before we head out to China. Seeing you safe will ease my mind." 'And my heart,' he silently added. Kenshin smiled at her before reaching for her hand once more and guiding her back into the room with the waiting company to inform them of his decision.

Three days of traveling later found Kenshin, Kaoru, and Sanosuke in Kyoto, on the steps of the Aioya with an extremely hyper Misao greeting them.

"Kaoru-chan! I'm so excited that you've finally decided to come!" Misao glanced over at Kenshin as if on second thought. "Too bad you have to leave Himura-san." She then grinned wickedly over at Sanosuke while flipping her long braid behind her shoulder. "You can go anytime rooster head."

Sanosuke narrowed his dark eyes at her. "Shut up weasel. The only reason I'm here is to make sure Jou-chan arrived safely." He crossed his arms as he chewed on his fish bone absently while paying attention to his two best friends. They seemed fine with this little vacation although he knew deep down that they were both suffering.

Misao glared at Sano but before she could yell at him about his unflattering comment another presence made himself known. "Battousai," the stiff, crisp voice of Aoshi Shinomori greeted, walking up the other side of the porch, catching three out of four individuals unaware.

Aoshi gave Misao a disapproving look and she calmed down before he looked over at Kaoru briefly and then returned his attention to Kenshin, ignoring Sanosuke completely. "You will be leaving Kamiya-san in my care for the season?" He asked in an authoritative, bored tone.

"He's not leaving her in your care! Kaoru-chan is here to visit me for the season. Besides, Okina said it was okay," Misao argued, not liking the tone of her Aoshi-sama. Aoshi cast his penetrating gaze back at her and she smiled uneasily at him.

"Hai, if you do not mind," Kenshin replied, glancing between Aoshi and Misao a moment slightly confused. Aoshi nodded his head slightly and left for the temple to do his daily meditating. Kenshin turned back to Kaoru, seeing her eyes shadowed by her bangs once again. He gave Sanosuke a pointed look.

"Come on weasel, can you give a guy some food before he travels across the sea to save some stuffy shirt diplomat," Sanosuke spit out his fishbone and grinned at the young woman.

Misao threw up her hands in annoyance. "Fine, come on baka," she led him inside, a little bounce in her step at having seen her Aoshi-sama so early in the morning before even bringing him his tea.

After they left Kenshin cleared his throat. Kaoru looked up at him slowly, sapphire clashing with amethyst. Kenshin moved towards her and embraced her tightly, much like the night before he left to battle Shishio so long ago. It was so like the night where fireflies danced around them. It was so like the first time he abandoned her.

Kaoru clutched the front of his navy blue gi, tears flowing from her eyes. Kenshin ran his fingers through her hair, enjoying the silky feeling of the dark locks. "Promise me you'll come back," Kaoru murmured against his chest.

Kenshin kissed her forehead softly. "You don't even have to ask, Kaoru-dono. I'll always return to you, even when you've grown tired of my presence, I will still return to you." He reassured her. She was his home, no matter what happened to him, she would always be the most important person to him.

He had never really felt loved and accepted before he met Kaoru Kamiya. He lost his family at a young age, Hiko wasn't exactly loving, his time with Tomoe had been short and full of lies. Ten years he wandered in and out of people's lives never belonging. Then he met Kaoru. She took him in, no questions asked, and offered him the comfort he had so longed for, "I'll always come back to you."

That answer seemed to satisfy her and she pulled back to look him in the eye and composed herself. "I'm sorry about that. Don't worry about me," she gave him a courageous smile that made his heart skip a beat. 'Finally, he said he would return for me, not to return my stupid ribbon.'

"Thank you for understanding, Kaoru-dono," Kenshin released her from his arms. "Sano and I must be going now, that we should. We have a ship to catch."

"Of course, take care Kenshin." Kaoru kept smiling even as Misao and Sanosuke returned to the front porch arguing with one another. The smile didn't slip until the two men that mattered so much to her were out of sight.

"Well, I need to go fix Aoshi-sama's tea. Ja!" Misao skipped inside leaving Kaoru alone.

She didn't notice a pair of eyes glazed like arctic ice watching her intently.

Aoshi watched from nearby as Battousai left his woman behind. He wasn't nosey but he had to admit that he was curious about the pair. He was under the impression that Battousai was in love with the woman, but why would he so readily accept a mission if that was the case?

If Aoshi had been in love he certainly wouldn't have left his woman behind before solidifying the relationship. "You are a fool Battousai," he spoke to the wind as he observed as the young kendo instructor watched her companions abandon her.

He turned to look over at the temple; Misao was climbing the stairs, no doubt ready to serve his tea. Casting one last look at Kaoru he quickly reached his temple and began to meditate, looking as if he had been there the entire duration.

"Aoshi-sama!" Misao greeted with a warm smile as she carried his tray towards him. Aoshi didn't bother looking up at her. There was no need to greet her, she would chat away as if he had acknowledged her, and whether or not he actually did was irrelevant.

"Isn't it exciting that Kaoru-chan is staying with us?" Misao asked as she poured her Aoshi-sama's tea. Aoshi didn't reply. "I mean, it's quite sad that Himura-san is leaving her again, but this way she and I get to spend time together."

"Misao," Aoshi interrupted her before she gave him a head ache. She looked up at him, mouth half opened, and emerald eyes bright with anticipation.

"Yes Aoshi-sama?" She asked a bit eagerly.

"Perhaps you should talk with Kamiya-san, I am trying to meditate." Aoshi told her in icy tones. He watched as Misao's smile faded for a moment before resurfacing and she bowed before him gathering the tea tray.

Aoshi listened to her retreating footsteps before sitting back and resting against the wall behind him. "Battousai left his woman in my care for the season. And I was afraid this would prove another dull few months here at the Aoiya," he mused to himself.

"Kenshin are you sure about this? I mean, the government could have found someone else to serve as this jerk's body guard," Sano spoke up his thoughts as the pair traveled in a carriage to the docks to catch their ship.

"I have an obligation to help others, that I do," Kenshin replied in a tired voice an emotionally drained voice. His eyes stared listlessly out the window at the passing landscape.

"Yeah, well, I think you should have waited and spent some more time with Jou-chan. She probably doesn't even realize how much she means to you. You always act so rurouni around her." Sano continued glaring at his best friend.

"She knows what she means to me," Kenshin replied turning towards his friend.

Sano looked out the window in the direction of Kyoto. "I certainly hope she does. A lot can happen in three months." Sano wanted his two best friends to admit their feelings and marry. He couldn't think of anything he wanted more than their mutual happiness. He was certain that it would be found in their relationship.

"I am confident that Shinomori-san will not allow any misfortunes to befall Kaoru-dono. She and Misao will have a fine time together," Kenshin tried to reassure himself more than Sano. Somehow, deep in the pit of his stomach, he felt that he was making the biggest mistake of his life.

He was so close to telling Kaoru exactly how he felt and yet, so much was left unsaid.

Kenshin reached into the inner folds of his navy blue gi and pulled out the dark ribbon. He took a deep breath of the Jasmine scent that represented Kaoru. Quickly, he placed the ribbon back in his shirt, not wanting to lose even a little bit of the smell. It was going to have to get him through three long months.